February 1, 2004

Squeeze My Lemon: A Collection of Classic Blues Lyrics
Written and Compiled by Randy Poe
The author, a huge blues fan, filled notebooks with lyrics from his favorite songs over a period of years, and many of them are collected here. You don’t get entire songs, just single couplets grouped together under 20 subject/chapter headings such as “Birth,” “Death,” “Make Mine a Double Entendre,” “Blues and Booze,” and “Blues Behind Bars,” with brief introductions to the theme of each chapter. As a result, the book is an easily digestible and fairly entertaining—if not a particularly substantial—read. There are some real gems included here, such as this risqué fragment from the traditional “Empty Bed Blues:”

“He boiled my cabbage
And he made it awful hot
Then he put the bacon in
And overflowed the pot”

But there are also lots of other classic lines that are at least as good or better than the bits that made the final cut, and Poe shamelessly includes several lyrics by Leiber &Stoller (he’s the president of Leiber &Stoller Music Publishing), who aren’t exactly bluesmen. On the other hand, the book is full of great pictures of blues artists—many of which are seldom seen in other publications—and there’s a short-but-fun introduction by B.B. King. This book is of limited use as a serious reference, but it makes a great coffee table ditty. Hal Leonard.

—Barry Cleveland  

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